Every year owners pour over data to figure out where they should target players. The difference on draft day sometimes comes down to the owners willing to take certain players earlier than they’re projected to go. Here’s a list of players likely to outperform their ADPs. Don’t be afraid to reach for them when you’re on the clock.
ADP is taken from My Fantasy League draft data as of August 21 and is based on a 12-team league.
Mike Evans, WR Buccaneers (ADP 16)
Remember when the first round was all about running backs? Times have changed and receivers now rule the day. Seven receivers have an ADP in Round 1. One receiver slipping into the mid-second round is Evans. Many owners still have a sour taste in their mouths after Evans struggled with drops and finished with just three touchdowns last season. Don’t let emotion play into your draft-day decisions. Evans did end 2015 with 74 receptions and 1,204 yards. He saw at least eight targets in 10 games and 12+ targets five times. Evans scored 17 touchdowns in two seasons at Texas A&M and put up 12 as a rookie, so last year’s dip was likely an aberration. If you’re picking at the end of Round 1 and don’t want to reach for a running back, grab Evans. He’ll improve on last year’s numbers.
Sammy Watkins, WR Bills (ADP 26)
There are 14 receivers with an ADP in the first two rounds. Watkins isn’t one of them. That’s a mistake. Watkins’ ADP sits just outside of the second round. If you can get him in the late second/early third round area, you should be arrested for stealing. Watkins ended last season on fire. In his final six games Watkins scored 36.8, 22.9, 19.2, 31.1, 13.4 and 27.6 fantasy points in PPR formats. He had 56 targets in those games. Once he was healthy and the Bills made it a priority to get Watkins the football, he was unstoppable. Ask Darrelle Revis. Watkins had offseason foot surgery but he’s already back to full speed in practice, so health won’t be an issue barring a setback. Injuries are the only thing that can stop Watkins. If he stays healthy, he’ll blow his current ADP out of the water.
Greg Olsen, TE Panthers (ADP 47)
Olsen is getting drafted at the end of Round 4. Gronk and Jordan Reed get all the love but Olsen put up a 77/1,104/7 stat line too last year. He’s recorded consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and Olsen has been targeted 245 times during that span. Again, you can get this guy in Round 5 in a lot of drafts. There are three sure-fire stud tight ends right now: Gronk, Reed and Olsen. Gronk’s ADP is 11 and Reed is sitting at 35. Kelvin Benjamin is going a full round higher than Olsen on average. Olsen is a heck of a value pick at his current price.
Eric Decker, WR Jets (ADP 52)
There are a couple of guys that every year you look at their ADP and wonder why it’s so low. Decker is one of those guys. These are the receivers being drafted near Decker: DeVante Parker, Kevin White and Tyler Lockett. No disrespect to those guys but Decker has at least 80 receptions and 11 touchdowns in three of the last four seasons. He’s been targeted 123, 137, 115 and 131 times the last four year. That’s playing opposite of Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall. The bottom line is Decker is talented and he consistently produces. Let someone else gamble with the upside on guys like Parker and White this early in the draft. Decker is like an old shoe. He’s not flashy. He’s comfortable and gets the job done.
Jeremy Langford, RB (ADP 70)
Langford has one of the more mind-boggling ADPs of any player this year. That is until you remember John Fox is the Bears head coach. No one despises fantasy owners more than Fox. Fox has a long history of drawing the ire of the fantasy community with the way he uses his backfields. Remember last year in Week 16 when Ka’Deem Carey scored two short touchdowns against Tampa Bay for no reason whatsoever? Even with the Fox curse a possibility, Langford is still worth a shot in the fifth round. He’s handled virtually all of the first-team reps in the preseason and looked good. Even if Carey or rookie Jordan Howard see some touches, Langford appears to clearly be the Bears top back heading into the season. I can hear some people yelling right now: Where was Knowshon Moreno on Denver’s depth chart at this time in 2013? Allen Hurns is another player going in Round 6 owners can take a round or two earlier. Anyone who thinks Hurns is a one-year wonder doesn’t watch him play enough.
Ryan Mathews, RB Eagles (ADP 81)
When Mathews is healthy, he produces. It’s the staying healthy part that’s been his bugaboo. Outside of 2012, Mathews has never averaged below 4.3 yards per carry in a season. The Eagles have a couple of other options in the backfield like Darren Sproles and Kenjon Barner but neither player is going to eat much into Mathews’ early down/goal line touches as long as he’s healthy. Mathews is a perfect example of value on draft day. Is Mathews a great pick in Round 4? No because of his injury history and the other players being drafted in that area. However, his ADP is in Round 7 right next to” three yards and a cloud of dust” Melvin Gordon. Factoring in where you can get Mathews and his expected workload on a team that wants to run the football this year, he’s worth taking a round early.
Zach Ertz, TE Eagles (ADP 87)
This was the toughest call to make because Ertz, Derek Carr, Eli Manning and Marvin Jones all had ADPs in the eighth round. Any one of the guys can be taken a round or two earlier. I went with Ertz because he should be a target hog all year long. The Eagles only have one starting NFL-caliber receiver on their roster in Jordan Matthews. Dorial Green-Beckham may become a starting receiver over time but right now he’s not there. That means Ertz is going to be a huge part of the Eagles’ passing game like he was to close out last season. Over his final four games, Ertz caught 35 passes for 450 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 46 times. Ertz only scored twice in 2015, so that number needs to go up. Still, he has all the ingredients to be a high-end weekly TE1. Ertz is a strong pick in Round 7.
Jameis Winston, QB Buccaneers (ADP 97)
There are a number of quality quarterbacks going later in the draft. Winston is the type of pick that if owners take him a round early, they may be patting themselves on the back when hoisting their championship trophy. Winston had a strong rookie season; throwing for 4,042 yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also added six rushing touchdowns. It should be noted that Vincent Jackson missed six games and trying to figure out when Austin Seferian-Jenkins was going to play was like searching for Bigfoot. Winston is in his second season under Dirk Koetter, so he should improve on his rookie numbers. If you wait to draft a quarterback, Winston will make it well worth it.
Kirk Cousins, QB Redskins (ADP 114)
If you decide to wait even longer for a quarterback and pass on guys like Eli, Carr and Winston, Cousins may be the biggest steal in the entire draft. The Redskins have no running game to speak of, talented receivers and one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Cousins is going to throw the ball a ton. Last year he had 30 or more pass attempts in a game 10 times. Is the Redskins running game improved? You can argue it’s worse heading into the season with Matt Jones already injured. Cousins closed out 2015 scoring 22 touchdowns and throwing just two interceptions in his last eight games. There’s value and then there’s Kirk Cousins in Round 9. It’s not even a bad idea to reach for him in Round 8. If you’re already set at quarterback by this point, Kamar Aiken is way undervalued at his Round 10 ADP as well.
Theo Riddick, RB Lions (ADP 124)
Riddick caught 80 balls last year. That’s more than Mike Evans and Amari Cooper. He’s going in Round 11. Let’s say his receptions drop by 20. You still get a running back with 60 catches late in the draft. Again, we’re talking about a running back with 80 receptions that is pretty much an afterthought. Riddick is never going to be an early-down runner but any back who catches the ball as well as he does will always find a role in the offense. Eighty catches. You can have him for almost nothing.
Tony Romo, QB Cowboys (ADP 141)
Wow, so many people are concerned about Romo’s collarbone that he’s being drafted in the 12th round. Fine but why not take him a round higher to be your QB2? Seriously, even if you’re concerned about Romo’s health, you’re getting a guy in Round 11 who has four 4,000+ passing seasons and throws to Dez Bryant to be your second fantasy quarterback. If Romo stays healthy you have a QB1 to either rotate or use as trade bait. I see Romo being a no-lose pick. To get a quarterback that can put up his numbers this late in the draft is rare. Take advantage of the opportunity.
Tyler Boyd, WR Bengals (ADP 150)
Boyd has been undervalued all summer. He’s finally starting to pick up some steam after showing off his skills in the preseason. First, let’s make one thing clear: Brandon LaFell doesn’t keep anyone with talent on the bench. LaFell has one season with more than 49 catches. Keep in mind the two quarterbacks he’s played with are Cam Newton and Tom Brady. The Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in the offseason. Tight end Tyler Eifert is recovering from ankle surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. LaFell is now dealing with ligament damage in his hand. Boyd has a great opportunity and he’s already shown he can make plays. Josh Doctson is going ahead of Boyd and he’s been on PUP for a month. Boyd is a high upside late-round pick. He’ll be the Bengals No. 2 receiver before Jeremy Hill’s first fumble.
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